Tesco: every little (extra IT management) helps

Business process company xMatters has announced a partnership with Tesco’s Technology division to help update its communications platform for managing IT incidents.

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Tesco: first store opened in 1929, some operations have been updated since the firm’s earliest days

The objective here for Tesco was increased visibility of IT incidents across its technology platforms globally. The new upgrades have been credited with improving IT issue acknowledgement within the first critical minutes of an IT issue.
Tesco has 7,600 stores in 12 markets and began this programme in July 2014. The xMatters implementation was rolled out in four weeks.

DevOps? That’s aisle 16 dear

The programme to deliver this collaboration was part of Tesco’s IT organisational re-work, which saw the retail giant adopting a DevOps IT model amongst its 4,000 technologists.

Rob Ainscough, Technology Change Manager at Tesco said, “The visibility that xMatters has enabled, now allows Tesco to react appropriately to high priority IT incidents. Before, there was no way for me to consistently receive information about incidents as they happened. Now, it’s easy as I have all of the information I need to do my job at my fingertips.”

Ainscough thinks that getting customer service right is crucial for future success.

“Customer service is central to what we do, so we needed to change the way we manage IT incidents globally. We needed a standardised and proven method of global communication, and the xMatters platform helped us connect with the right people at the right time in a consistent way, with a 24/7 focus on the customer,” he said.

The solution is used across nine contact centres globally and is used for notifying all high priority incidents 24/7, both within Tesco’s Technology division and across the wider business.

Accountability, now freshly baked

Since implementation, Tesco has not only improved collaboration, but it has driven increased accountability in IT incident management through the partnership.

Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA, xMatters said, “We’re delighted that our advanced SaaS communications platform is playing such an important role in helping Tesco to deliver a world-class experience to its internal and external customers. By giving users the ability to be more agile across the organisation globally, the business is beginning to benefit from less downtime and better visibility and resolution of IT incidents.”

Today’s modern enterprises need effective solutions in place that give them a competitive edge. xMatters technology facilitates efficient two-way communications to the relevant internal teams and external service providers.

Agility and effectiveness, from IT ops to baked goods

It supports those responsible for a rapid resolution, from assigning a service ticket to the on-call resolution team to setting up an instant conference bridge during a crisis situation and escalating communications in alignment with pre-defined processes. This makes distributed teams more social, collaborative and productive and the overall business more effective, agile and competitive.

Coming Soon: ITAM and ITSM Integration Group Test

Our next Group Test will explore the relationship between the IT management disciplines of IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT Service Management (ITSM).

The review will explore the opportunities for managing assets and interacting with ITAM teams whilst maintaining everyday ITSM processes.

We’re looking to review:

  • ITSM tools that offer ITAM functionality or integrate with tools that do
  • As well as ITAM tools that provide value add to ITSM lifecycles

Our Group Tests review and compare the features and strengths of technology for a particular use case.

Previous Group Tests:

The aim of the review is to support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when building integrations between ITAM & ITSM – highlighting key competitive differentiators between products.

ITAM and ITSM (2+2=5)

To be agile in making financial decisions in IT, we need to shift from ITAM being a reactive process (counting up the mess after it has happened, performing true-ups) to be Proactive. ITAM need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the architects and project managers making technology choices to support them and help the business make smarter decisions. Decisions need to be made whilst considering efficient delivery of services (ITSM) whilst also considering risk and total financial impact (ITAM).

The table below highlights the six most likely sources of change within your IT environment. By embracing and working with these sources of change, we can help the business make quicker and smarter decisions.

ITAM can be an enabler and source of business intelligence for ITSM and IT teams in general – addressing change at a strategic level rather than in a reactive fire-fighting capacity.

Sources-of-Change1

The diagram below shows a typical cradle-to-grave lifecycle of an asset and where I believe the opportunities exist for providing more agile ITAM and integrating with ITSM.

Where-ITAM-meets-ITSM1

ITAM & ITSM Integration Group Test- Key Topic areas:

  • Inventory – How do you manage an inventory of assets and ensure accuracy?
  • Change Management – How are formal changes communicated to the ITAM team?
  • Request Fulfilment – How are asset costs and authorisations delivered via requests?
  • Relationship Mapping – How is the relationship between users, assets and services managed?
  • Asset Usage – How are unused, AWOL or stolen assets managed?
  • Installs, Moves, Adds and Changes (IMAC) – How are everyday changes to systems reflected in asset data?
  • Procurement – How are ITAM and ITSM data combined to allow smarter procurement decisions?

Have I missed anything – what else would you add to this list?

Suppliers who wish to participate should contact us.

Proactive Problem Management Review [2014] – The Results

This is a competitive review of software vendors who offer proactive problem management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) tool.

Products reviewed:

 Proactive Problem Management 2014 

ppmThere seems to be a imbalance within proactive problem management and alerting generally that means that either you aren’t able to pull in enough useful data or you end up with way too much and end up drowning in a sea of notifications.

Best in Class – ALEMBA vFIRE

Alemba vFire seems takes all of this in its stride and gives the ability to set outages and rules to stop alerts being received when they are not required leaving analysts free of the need to wade through the detritus that many other solutions produce. This together with the ability to simulate outages to show what kind of impact to the business could be expected in the event of a outage and the one-click ‘Find Causes’ facility which shows all items and services that could be the cause of a failure provide powerful automation and give control, intelligence and awareness back to the IT organisation.

We believe that vFire has the functionality the vast majority of organisations require to assist in operating an efficient and successful proactive problem management process.

Honourable Mention

Nexthink V5 is a highly sophisticated analytical solution which operates by monitoring the end-user experience and reporting back on real-time events recording dependencies and relationships without the need to install additional monitoring tools.

Offered as a stand-alone solution with no ticketing functionality, Nexthink state that the solution contains the necessary API and connectors to integrate with ticketing tools to create proactive alerts and track actions taken upon its analytics. We feel the solution proactively delivers timely and relevant real-time information whenever needed.  The solution greatly reduces the burden on staff and ensures risk can be quickly and accurately assessed.

We feel that Nexthink is a remarkable analytical tool but would perhaps be overkill for those less mature or organisations looking purely for proactive problem management capabilities.

Introduction

Most of us are familiar with the concept of problem management whether we are practicing it within our organisation or not. The objective is to minimise both the number and severity of incidents and potential problems to the business by investigating the root cause of issues rather than concentrating on finding the cure.

Problem management is split into two different, but equally important aspects:

  • Reactive deals with problem solving after one or more incidents occur
  • Proactive involves Identifying and solving problems and known errors before incidents occur

If reactive problem management is concerned with addressing the root cause of incidents, then proactive problem management is the systems and techniques to address these incidents before they occur and cause service disruption, or reduce or eliminate recurring incidents.

This review looked at four ITSM solutions, targeting all market sizes, that assist organisations in taking proactive step towards managing incidents and problems and exploring problems before they result in incidents.

The main topic areas covered by the review included:

  • Managing the lifecycle of problems
  • Identifying problems
  • Assessment and alerting
  • Solving problems, root causes and problem solving methodologies
  • Known errors / managing work in progress / CSI
  • Integrations, monitoring and triggers

Market Positioning

For the purposes of this review, vendors were classified based on their primary market focus and product capabilities as follows:

  • Enterprise – Either integrated or part of a suite/brand that provides E2E IT Systems & Service Management, for example: Includes Monitoring, Discovery & Service Management capability.
  • Specialised – Offers IT Service Management, with integration to third party Systems Management software
Vendor Primary user base Product Characteristics
Freshservice Small Specialised
Nexthink Large Specialised
ServiceDesk Plus Small to medium Enterprise
vFire Large Enterprise

Competitive Overview

Vendor Elevator Pitch Strengths Weaknesses
Freshservice Freshservice is an uncomplicated and attractive ITIL service desk solution.The simplicity of Freshservice allows customers to provide basic proactive problem management services whilst easily linking to the other areas of the solution.
  • Simple easy to use interface
  • Easy linkage between processes
  • Proactive suggestion of possibly related records when creating description
  • Internal monitoring within the solution could be improved
  • Financial management capabilities require extending
  • Lack of automation in areas such as setting records as proactive
Nexthink Nexthink V5 is an intelligent and attractive solution.Providing far more than proactive problem management, Nexthink delivers extensive analytics and intelligence capabilities in a user-focused manner
  • Ability to search in normal non-IT language (natural language, plain English, google-like experience)
  • Ability to compare objects and contextual situations in order to troubleshoot
  • Robust visual impact analysis
  • No ticketing facility within the solution but has API and connectors to integrate with
ServiceDesk Plus ServiceDesk Plus is a solution that contains the ability to carry out problem management but is immature with specific regard to proactive problem management.The attraction of ServiceDesk Plus is the ability to open several instances of the solution at the same time ensuring multitasking is possible whilst providing easy linkage between records.
  • Proactive problem management records link with other record types
  • No automatic suggestion of knowledge base articles, workarounds etc
  • Too much manual input required
  • Does not seem to clearly separate proactive from reactive problem management
vFire vFire 9.1 is a strong and uncomplicated proactive problem management solution.The solution provides advanced capabilities allowing customers to take advantage of many automated features to make problem management less painful.
  • ‘Find causes’ functionality takes a good portion of the leg work out of troubleshooting
  • Ability to simulate an outage to show possible impact to business
  • Good visual display of CMDB showing related items and services
  • While the dashboards are easy to create and contain a good choice of information they are not the best looking

Number of Customers

  • Freshservice 1200
  • Nexthink 500
  • ManageEngine 25,000
  • Alemba 350

Please note that for the purposes of this report we are showing paying customers only

Analysis

Vendor Functionality Summary Analysis
Freshservice
  • Open API
  • Existing standard integrations with Event Management tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as ticket details inputted
  • Implementation support available
Freshservice provides basic yet capable functionality for use by users with low to medium proactive problem management maturity.If you’re after bells and whistles such as sophisticated visual service mapping then this is probably not the solution for you, however, if you are after a good basic package, with ticketing, that has the proactive problem management essentials then Freshservice is a good option
Nexthink
  • Nexthink is a standalone analytics and intelligence solution which integrates with ticketing tools. It does not contain it’s own ticketing capabilities
  • Full integration toolkit. Data can be imported into and out of Nexthink in various ways to serve many different purposes. More info: http://www.nexthink.com/integration/
  • Templates and pre-filled forms and structure available for basic starting point from Nexthink library, a cloud based platform for collective intelligence
  • Web API
  • Existing standard integrations with Service Desk solutions such as LANDESK, ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, EasyVista and PMCS Helpline.
Nexthink provides a comprehensive analytics and intelligence solution which provides far more than Proactive Problem Management capabilities. What’s more it provides them in a user-focused way which is quite different to the majority of other solutions on the market that are all data centre focused.I believe that this solution would create huge value to any organisation looking for real-time end-user analytics.
ServiceDesk Plus
  • Drag and drop templates
  • API’s available to integrate with third party tools such as event management
  • Default templates and admin configuration wizard for quick install
  • Implementation support available
ServiceDesk Plus provides a very basic and mostly manually driven proactive problem management offering. I feel that this solution would be more suitable for those organisations looking for reactive problem management capabilities with the ability to integrate event/alert monitoring. If ManageEngine were to invest in creating more automated features in the proactive problem area, such as auto update from CMDB, the solution would appeal to a much wider and more mature audience.
vFire
  • Drag and drop workflow design
  • User defined dashboards
  • 188 out of the box reports available
  • Existing standard integrations with monitoring tools such as SAM and SCOM
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Known errors and outages displayed on customer portal bulletin board
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as record details inputted
  • Implementation support available
vFire provides very good functionality for users with all levels of proactive problem management maturity.vFire provides more automation than most of the other solutions reviewed and goes the extra mile with regard to fault finding and diagnosis via it’s graphical interface. I believe that this solution would be a good option for most medium to large enterprise organisations.

Deep Dive

Further details for each vendor can be found by using the links below:

Disclaimer, Scope and Limitations

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created.  Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed.  Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline, and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study.  The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review, that is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge, without registration.

For further information, please read the ‘Group Tests’ section, on our Disclosure page.

Nexthink V5 Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – Nexthink V5 Review

Vendor Nexthink
Product Nexthink V5
Version reviewed 5.2
Date of version Release July 2014
Year Founded 2004
Customers +500
Pricing Structure Perpetual and subscription licences for both Nexthink Analytics Platform and Nexthink Analytics Modules. All priced per number of devices/endpoints.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Nexthink V5 is an intelligent and attractive solution.Providing far more than proactive problem management, Nexthink delivers extensive analytics and intelligence capabilities in a user-focused manner.
Strengths
  • Ability to search in normal non-IT language (natural language, plain English, google-like experience)
  • Ability to compare objects and contextual situations in order to troubleshoot
  • Robust visual impact analysis
Weaknesses
  • No ticketing facility within the solution but has API and connectors to integrate with
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Nexthink is primarily a large-market solution

Independent Review

nexthink-logoNexthink V5 is a highly sophisticated solution yet still manages to look clean and simple. In contrast to the other solutions reviewed within this group test Nexthink does not contain any ticketing functionality and is wholly an analytical tool. However, it does have the necessary API and connectors to integrate with ticketing tools to create proactive alerts and track actions taken upon its analytics.

Proactive problem management is provided by monitoring the end-user experience and reporting back on real-time events. Dependencies and relationships are recorded without the need to install additional monitoring tools.

Nexthink is about discovering what you don’t know by learning and detecting what is different to the norm. In a time when event notification overload can cause more harm than good, Nexthink uses context to ensure that only pertinent info is alerted…

i.e. If you leave your car unlocked a normal monitoring tool would send an alert regardless, however if you were parked within a locked garage Nexthink would be able to apply context to recognise that this is not alert worthy (or less critical).

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all medium to large enterprise organisations of medium to high proactive problem management maturity.

I believe that this highly developed solution could provide organisations with the visibility and insight into not only proactive problem management but also big data generally by only collecting summary activity data and related issues rather impractically expecting IT departments to mine through everything or make decisions on what is, and what is not important.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

N.B. every form and workflow can be customized through the admin module

  • Nexthink is a standalone analytics and intelligence solution which integrates with ticketing tools. It does not contain it’s own ticketing capabilities
  • Full integration toolkit. Data can be imported into and out of Nexthink in various ways to serve many different purposes. More info: http://www.nexthink.com/integration/
  • Templates and pre-filled forms and structure available for basic starting point from Nexthink library, a cloud based platform for collective intelligence
  • Web API
  • Existing standard integrations with Service Desk solutions such as LANDESK, ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, EasyVista and PMCS Helpline.

Identification

The integration of end-user IT analytics for incident and problem management is driven from the service desk. Nexthink helps align incidents and problems and enables the service desk to identify outage-problems in real-time and configuration-change-problems faster. In other words Nexthink can fast track incident to problem identification and help provide probable cause to solve problems and/or provide suitable workarounds before (further) incidents recur.

Nexthink’s internal technology assists in the identification of potential proactive problems via

Self-learning, topological relationships, base lining, benchmarking, statistics & heuristics.

Nexthink states that their solution, without configuration or definition of a potential problem can discover what’s in-use, understand the dependencies (process, devices, ports, services, server, cloud domain, etc.) and profile a baseline to further identify deviations e.g. connection is getting slower or failing for a specific group of users.

Information about the context of any identified proactive problem is displayed on Nexthink user interfaces (Finder and Portal). Portal is a web-based dashboard platform where specific widgets can be added to see the past, current and potential future impact of a change, a growing issue or an outage, including break-ups by departments, and type of problems (devices, network/infra, web requests, servers, etc.).

Nexthink specify that integration with network and server monitoring solutions is not necessary for their analytics to perform and deliver but welcome such integrations to create a full end-to-end visibility with both user-centric (outside-in) and server-centric (inside-out) visibility and analysis. They maintain that the solution is able to identify anomalies in data patterns resulting from configuration changes without the aid or knowledge of those changes and that it’s more efficient and effective to use the many diagnostic tools available within the solution to do root cause analysis.

Assessment and Alerting

Nexthink calculates an objective risk assesment via the end-user perspective. Their argument is that this positions users to compute an impact analysis from a business point of view because they will already have information such as the department, job role, location of affected users and are therefore using business language rather than IT speak i.e. you are not saying x router interface was flapping for 10min, dropping xxx packets, but rather 15 users from our Finance department attempted to use SAP without success for 10 minutes (while the 45 users from sales didn’t have any issues).

Nexthink also provides the ability to compute based on current activity, e.g. if we shut down these 10 servers now, 120 users currently connected to these servers with these 10 applications will suffer and this equals, based on each application business criticality, a business loss of £££. Based on feedback we receive from readers this functionality is highly sought after yet sadly lacking from many solutions. We believe that this functionality provides solid value to potential customers. Analytics provides the ability to push the concept of proactive problem management to preemptive and predictive.

Although there is no ticketing tool available within Nexthink, by analyzing all end-users’ activity collectively and centrally the solution is able to apply mechanisms and algorithms to understand if the problem is on the device, user, application, network/infrastructure or server side enabling the problem to be routed to the most appropriate group using the integration interface or finding the solution looking at the Nexthink Portal or Finder.

Implementation  

Tracking and management of the lifecycle of a proactive problem would have to be provided by an integration with a third party ticketing tool. However, new/updated information can be fed into the third party tool to notify about a situational change, i.e. the problem has increased in severity.

Auditing and Accountability

Nexthink gives the option to visually display an impending breach/breach of an SLA by colouring the issue yellow/red within the widget, building a history trends graph, triggering an alert or exporting context (what, when, where, what, how long, how badly) to a third party tool. Gives the context and impact of the breach (what, when, where, what, how long, how badly).

In Summary

Nexthink provides a comprehensive analytics and intelligence solution which provides far more than Proactive Problem Management capabilities. What’s more it provides them in a user-focused way which is quite different to the majority of other solutions on the market that are all data centre focused.

I believe that this solution would create huge value to any organisation looking for real-time end-user analytics.

In Their Own Words:

Nexthink is the innovator of End-user IT Analytics for security, ITSM and transformation. Our software uniquely provides enterprise-wide, real-time: analytics covering all endpoints, users, applications and network connections; and visualization of IT infrastructure and service delivery. Nexthink helps IT departments connect, communicate and collaborate to achieve their major goals and to optimize endpoint security, operations, support and workplace transformation projects. Nexthink’s real-time analytics and visualization extend help desk, server monitoring, APM (application performance management) and PCLM (PC lifecycle management) tools and provide essential visibility for IT governance.

Nexthink pro-actively monitors IT networks and reports on important end-user related events, such as changes in the IT infrastructure, application usage and bandwidth, error messages and crashes, as well as potential security risks, ensuring that the performance of IT services is recorded and uniquely visualized from the end-user perspective.

Screenshots

Freshservice Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – Freshdesk FreshService Review

Vendor Freshdesk Inc.
Product Freshservice
Version reviewed n/a
Date of version Release n/a
Year Founded 2010
Customers 1200
Pricing Structure The licensing structure is based on the number of agents. Freshservice is a SaaS only offering

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch Freshservice is an uncomplicated and attractive ITIL service desk solution.The simplicity of Freshservice allows customers to provide basic proactive problem management services whilst easily linking to the other areas of the solution.
Strengths
  • Simple easy to use interface
  • Easy linkage between processes
  • Proactive suggestion of possibly related records when creating description
Weaknesses
  • Internal monitoring within the solution could be improved
  • Financial management capabilities require extending
  • Lack of automation in areas such as setting records as proactive
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Freshservice is primarily a small to mid market solution

Independent Review

freshservice-logoFreshservice is a straightforward solution for users with straightforward needs. Simple and easy to use, the drag and drop workflow and form templates make for an easy set up of proactive problem management as well as the main solution.

Problem management is dealt with in much the same was as incident within the solution and although this will be perfectly acceptable for the majority of Freshservice’s customers those with more mature proactive problem requirements will likely find that this solution lacks the automation they will expect. The addition of automation to distinguish between the different types of problems would be useful together with the ability to smartly decide which problems are, in actual fact, a problem. The issue many IT teams are experiencing at this time is not that events and alerts are not being received but that so many are received that it is difficult to sort through to find the ones that actually matter. If Freshservice can master this then their worth to their customers would dramatically increase.

The ability to set a “book value” for a particular type of asset is a useful feature, providing the ability to report on those assets that are perhaps experiencing continued faults to see whether continued endeavour is of benefit, I would like to see this area expanded to help track the cost of faults. My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all small to large organisations of low to medium proactive problem management maturity. For the vast majority of these organisations, I believe that Freshservice has all the functionality required to perform proactive problem management to a successful level. However, if your organisation is likely to grow in the near future then I believe a more sophisticated solution would be suitable. The number of manual actions required within the solution would be counterproductive to organisations with large numbers of reported proactive problems.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

N.B. every form and workflow can be customized through the admin module

  • Open API
  • Existing standard integrations with Event Management tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as ticket details inputted
  • Implementation support available

Identification

Freshservice defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record within the solution by the addition of a “known error” tag next to the problem subject. This is done manually by agents within the Problem Module and then provides the ability for reports to be run on “known errors”. I would like to see the ability for Freshservice to automatically recognise these and tag accordingly without the need for the manual process. For organisations receiving large numbers of proactive problems I imagine this would become quite an onerous task. Freshservice’s internal Discovery probe is able to scan networks to populate the CMDB and is able to monitor the available disk space of relevant items.

Freshservice advise that although currently this is all that is able to be monitored, additional capabilities are to follow. Alerts from monitoring and networking tools such as Nagios and Solarwinds, which can be integrated via existing standard integrations, can be sent to Freshservice using Email commands and then automatically create a record within the solution.

Assessment and Alerting

Freshservice calculates an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem and is able to flag this against an associated CI as low, medium or high (colour coded) depending upon how the CI’s business proprity has been set. Assets are able to be attached to all proactive problem records with the importance of the asset viewable from within the record screen.

The solution also contains a basic visual relationship map for impact assesment. Freshservice is able to manually route proactive problems to relevant resolver groups by assigning the particular record to the respective group or agent from the Problems module, alternatively workflow rules can be used to automatically assign records to assign proactive problems to resolver groups or agents. Once a group or user has been assigned an email notification will alert the relevant people.

Implementation  

Freshservice provides the ability to link records to each other in one click. Workflow rules within the system can be utilized to provide the ability to update all linked records upon the update of the problem record. All file types and in solution notes can be attached to a proactive problem record ensuring that all relevant information is available to agents. Changes of status are possible by the use of a dropdown box within the record screen. Although there is no ability to set individual assets and CI’s as unavailable, the solution can be used to advise users of planned outages using both email and the self-service area. In the future I would like to see the ability to set items as unavailable, when affected by a fault that causes it to be so, in order that users can easily see the state of the item. Freshservice state that their customers main need is automatic notification when there is an issue and as a result I believe that development of this area would be very beneficial to both them and their customers.

Auditing and Accountability

Freshservice’s simple workflow rules can be utilised to set thresholds to notify of impending SLA breaches to both individual users and groups. Escalation emails can also be set to once breach has taken place. Each asset has a history of all requests associated with it – problem, change, release etc. that can be viewed after the request has been closed.

In Summary

Freshservice provides basic yet capable functionality for use by users with low to medium proactive problem management maturity. If you’re after bells and whistles such as sophisticated visual service mapping then this is probably not the solution for you, however, if you are after a good basic package, with ticketing, that has the proactive problem management essentials then Freshservice is a good option.

In Their Own Words:

Freshservice is an online ITIL service desk with a fresh twist. It puts a refreshing user experience on top of powerful ticketing and asset management capabilities, and is the most user-friendly app in the space.  In addition to core functionalities like Incident, Problem, Change, Release and Asset Management, Freshservice also lets you put your knowledge base on the cloud. Freshservice offers a plug and play ITIL solution for organizations looking to align themselves to best practices without getting any expert implementation help. It has been developed by the team of experts behind Freshdesk, the leading customer support software that is currently being used to support over 5 million customers across the world.

Screenshots

ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus Review for Proactive Problem Management

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Commercial Summary – ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus Review

Vendor ManageEngine
Product ServiceDesk Plus
Version reviewed 9.0
Date of version Release September 2014
Year Founded 2004
Customers 85,000 (25,000 paid)
Pricing Structure Pricing is based on the number of technician login (named technicians) and the number of assets managed by the application.  License is issued both on Annual Subscription as well as Perpetual models.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch ServiceDesk Plus is a solution that contains the ability to carry out problem management but is immature with specific regard to proactive problem management.The attraction of ServiceDesk Plus is the ability to open several instances of the solution at the same time ensuring multitasking is possible whilst providing easy linkage between records.
Strengths
  • Proactive problem management records link with other record types
Weaknesses
  • No automatic suggestion of knowledge base articles, workarounds etc
  • Relationships and services require entering manually within CMDB
  • Does not seem to clearly separate proactive from reactive problem management
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Service Desk Plus is primarily a small to medium-market solution

Independent Review

sdp_logoServiceDesk Plus is a solution heavily dependent upon manual input within the proactive problem management area.

The manual operation required within ServiceDesk Plus, especially the CMDB, means that for organisations with anything other than basic IT infrastructure there is going to be a lot of time and effort involved in mapping relationships and services in order to make troubleshooting easy within the solution as every time a change is made to the network or asset configuration relationships and services will need to be remapped. If however you are content to do this and your primary concern is with procuring a tool that pulls this information in and logs tickets then ServiceDesk Plus will be adequate.

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for all small organisations of low proactive problem management maturity.

For these organisations I believe that ServiceDesk Plus has the functionality required to perform proactive problem management. However, if your organisation is likely to mature in the near future then I believe a more sophisticated solution would be suitable. Having said that if ManageEngine were to increase the amount of automation in areas such as relationship management it would appeal to a more mature audience.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

  • Drag and drop templates
  • API’s available to integrate with third party tools such as event management
  • Default templates and admin configuration wizard for quick install
  • Implementation support available

Identification

ServiceDesk Plus defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record within the solution by providing the ability to add an additional drop down field within the problem template called “Create Problem Additional field” which allows the manual assignation to either Reactive or Proactive. I would like to see the ability for ServiceDesk Plus to automatically recognise the distinction and assign accordingly without the need for the manual process. For organisations receiving large numbers of proactive problems I imagine this would become quite an onerous task.

ServiceDesk Plus does not contain any internal technology to assist in the identification of proactive problems. It can however integrate with OpManager, the ManageEngine event and network monitoring software through a standard integration and third party event and network monitoring software via the open API.

Alerts from monitoring and networking tools can be sent to ServiceDesk Plus to automatically create an incident ticket. In order for this to be created as a problem record, reactive or proactive, the ticket must be manually changed. In the future I would like to see the ability for problem records to be created automatically cutting down on time and manpower for customers.

Assessment and Alerting

In order for ServiceDesk Plus to calculate an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem relationships such as what/who is affected by each item will need to be manually built within the CMDB. Once this is done the solution does have the ability to visually notify of an issue with an asset by displaying an exclamation sign within the relationship map.

The problem with this process, as with all manual relationship creation, is that what was correct yesterday may well not be correct tomorrow. In order for this are of the solution to work for any but the smallest most basic of organisations to work without high overhead in both time and manpower then this really needs to be automated.

ManageEngine state  that there is no current ability within ServiceDesk Plus to automatically alert or route proactive problems to relevant resolver groups. They have however mentioned that by using Business Rules and Problem Closure Rules that there may be ways to manually create these processes.

Implementation  

ServiceDesk Plus provides the ability to easily link records to each other but there is currently no ability to change the status of a proactive problem record.

When updating a proactive problem record with linked records it is possible to copy problem solutions and workarounds to all associated incidents. It is also possible to close all associated incidents from the problem record.

ManageEngine state that notes, .doc, .docx and .xls formats are able to be attached to a proactive problem record within ServiceDesk Plus. I would like to see this extended in the future to include image formats for easier troubleshooting.

Currently there is no provision to record availability and capacity information within ServiceDesk Plus, however, as a workaround, ManageEngine have suggested additional fields can be created within “problem additional fields” to denote stock availability. Although the solution can be used to advise users of planned outages using both email and the self-service area, in the future I would like to see the ability to set items as unavailable, when affected by a fault that causes it to be so, in order that users can easily see the state of the item.

Auditing and Accountability

ServiceDesk Plus workflow rules can be utilised to set thresholds to escalate upon breach of both response and resolution time.

Each record has a history associated with it – problem, change, release etc. that can be viewed after the request has been closed.

In Summary

ServiceDesk Plus provides a very basic and mostly manually driven proactive problem management offering.

I feel that this solution would be more suitable for those organisations looking for reactive problem management capabilities with the ability to integrate event/alert monitoring. If ManageEngine were to invest in creating more automated features in the proactive problem area, such as auto update from CMDB, the solution would appeal to a much wider and more mature audience.

In Their Own Words:

ServiceDesk Plus is a help desk software with integrated asset and project management built on the ITIL framework. It is available in 29 different languages and is used by more than 85,000 companies, across 186 countries, to manage their IT help desk and assets. ServiceDesk Plus comes in three editions. First is Standard edition which covers the IT help desk module. The standard edition is completely free forever with no restrictions on tickets, users or tech agents. Available free both on-premise as well as Cloud. Next is professional edition, which comes with help desk management along with Asset management. And finally, the third is Enterprise edition which covers professional edition and adds ITIL and project management. The ITIL modules include Incident, Problem, Change, CMDB and Service Catalogue. In addition to all the modules, ServiceDesk Plus also comes with Purchase and Contract Management.

http://www.manageengine.com/products/service-desk/sdp-editions.html

Screenshots

Alemba vFire Review for Proactive Problem Management [BEST IN CLASS]

This is part of a competitive review of software vendors who offer Proactive Problem Management capabilities as part of their IT service management (ITSM) solution.

Other products reviewed:

Alemba vFire Review – Commercial Summary

Vendor Alemba Ltd
Product vFire 9.1
Version reviewed 9.1
Date of version Release 2011
Year Founded 2007
Customers 350
Pricing Structure Currently vFire is sold as a perpetual licence for concurrent and dedicated agent users, the customer interface is supplied as an unlimited licence.

Executive Summary – BEST IN CLASS for Proactive Problem Management

Elevator Pitch vFire 9.1 is a strong and uncomplicated proactive problem management solution.The solution provides advanced capabilities allowing customers to take advantage of many automated features to make problem management less painful.
Strengths
  • ‘Find causes’ functionality takes a good portion of the leg work out of troubleshooting
  • Ability to simulate an outage to show possible impact to business
  • Good visual display of CMDB showing related items and services
Weaknesses
  • While the dashboards are easy to create and contain a good choice of information they are not the best looking
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, vFire 9.1 is primarily a large-market solution

Independent Review

Alemba LogovFire has provided strong proactive problem management functionality without becoming too complicated and will appeal to those who like their tools to have that databasey look and feel.

Alemba have understood that proactive problem management is a useful and valuable process and not just somewhere to plonk all those annoying event alerts that come in. One of my favourite capabilities of vFire is the ability to set outages and use these in conjunction with rules to stop alerts being received at all. With the typical issue being that serious issues are missed due to over alerting I find this both refreshing and immensely useful and know a few people who would rip their arm off for this kind of functionality within a tool.

Additional useful functions include the ability to simulate outages to show what kind of impact to the business could be expected in the event of a outage and the one-click ‘Find Causes’ facility which shows all items and services that could be the cause of a failure. Both of these provide powerful automation and I imagine that current customers of the solution wonder how they ever managed without.

My impression of the solution is that it would be suitable for medium to large enterprise organisations of all levels of proactive problem management maturity.

General

User configuration possible for:

Forms

Tables

Workflows

Dashboards

  • Drag and drop workflow design
  • User defined dashboards
  • 188 out of the box reports available
  • Existing standard integrations with monitoring tools such as SAM and SCOM
  • Default forms and structure as basic starting point
  • Known errors and outages displayed on customer portal bulletin board
  • Easy linkage between Problems and other types of tickets (i.e. Incident)
  • Proactive solution suggestion as record details inputted
  • Implementation support available

Identification

vFire defines the difference between a reactive and proactive problem management record as:

  • Reactive – the manual creation of a problem record through a call or request being logged.
  • Proactive – the automatic creation, assignment and notification of a problem, created from either a defined criteria set and pattern recognition or generated from an external source if a problem is identified.

The Proactive Problem Management Module is underpinned by the Entity Based Relationship Model which creates on-the-fly custom queries via a dynamic sql query engine. This is polled by the Proactive Analysis service on a schedule configured as part of the analyse rule.

Proactive problems are identied on pre-defined, pattern based modelling via a simple wizard based interface. A rule to monitor either calls or requests can be automatically created when a criteria set is matched.

Criteria can include:

  • existing or new data
  • specific counts or percentage thresholds
  • attributes from calls, workflow, availability, CMDB and SLM

Selection Criteria can be as simple or complex as per business requirements using Boolean logic.

Any output from the proactive problem management module falls under the calls or workflow modules. This allows all functionality and usability of the calls and workflow modules available to entities created via the proactive problem management module, but can still be identified as an automatically generated problem and linked to entities that caused the problem’s creation

Assessment and Alerting

vFire calculates an objective risk assesment of the proactive problem by graphically displaying the CMDB architecture showing the linked CI and all affected, or partially affected CI’s and services allowing investigation by users and enabling problem managers to gauge the extent of the problem, the risk it poses and what immediate and medium term actions are required.

I was impressed that vFire goes a step further than some of the other visual assessment aids featured in this review by providing visibility of the end-to-end relationship of CIs and Services ensuring that the holistic impact of current outages can be viewed. The same mechanisms can also be used to simulate the impact if a planned outage is scheduled.

vFire is able to alert relevant users and resolver groups to a proactive problem at any point in the Problem Lifecycle, (create/edit, resolve, close) via the configuration of rules within the solution with similar mechanisms in place to manually add/remove users or groups at any point in the problem lifecycle.

Implementation  

vFire provides the ability to link records to each other with one click. The solution enables the parent record to cascade updates such as status changes to all linked child records.

Attachments can be added to Problem records and stored as a linked object of the Problem record. There is no limitation to the attachment file type.

The status, or any attribute of a Problem can be set when it is initially logged and then falls under standard calls functionality where call status (e.g. open, in progress, resolved, closed) can be selected at any point in the Problem’s lifecycle.

Availability of CIs and Services associated with a Problem record can have their availability tracked. This includes any scheduled downtime, the targeted availability of the CI or Service, any planned or unplanned outages and the overall performance of the CI or Service against targeted metrics. Failure management is essential for any reliable operation and I believe that vFire have provided good capabilities for doing so.

Auditing and Accountability

vFire has a number of escalation levels prior to a SLA breach occuring. These are displayed graphically on the call, i.e. red for breach, and on each escalation and recipients can be configured to receive a breach notification. Recipients can be a user, a group or another stakeholder.

The solution contains the ability to suggest Knowledge Base articles and Known Error information that may relate to a proactive problem record via the Service Window which is available in all call windows. This provides real-time calculations based on the calls information and looks for similar records.

A matching matrix is provided which will show potentially matched items based on a number of criteria such as the linked CI or Service.

All Problem report data is retained in the database once resolved or closed

In Summary

vFire provides very good functionality for users with all levels of proactive problem management maturity.

vFire provides more automation than most of the other solutions reviewed and goes the extra mile with regard to fault finding and diagnosis via it’s graphical interface. I believe that this solution would be a good option for most medium to large enterprise organisations.

In Their Own Words:

vFire is an Enterprise level IT Service Management Software tool made by Alemba. As the successor to VMware’s Service Manager product (formerly infraEnterprise), Alemba’s vFire has inherited over 20 years of industry knowledge and offers a truly innovative User Interface that puts customer experience front and centre.

vFire offers support for implementing and delivering ITIL best practices. vFire provides out-of-the-box ITIL functionality for all major ITIL processes including: Incident, Request Fulfilment, Problem, Service Level, Knowledge, Change, Release & Deployment, Service Configuration & Asset, Service Catalog and Availability Management.

Key features:

  • Mould the system to your own requirements with flexible configuration options and a powerful screen designer.
  • Easily deploy an integrated, actionable Service Catalog that aligns IT activities to business services.
  • Publicize Service expectations and reduce the impact of service outages on business operations.
  • Effortlessly discover and map inter-dependencies between infrastructure components, applications, and business services, across both physical and virtual environments through Federated CMDB connectors.
  • Monitor and report performance against Service Level Agreements and Service Availability targets, to demonstrate the value IT provides to the business leveraging third party event management tools.
  • Easily model and automate your organization’s business processes in a powerful workflow builder which can be used to automate any IT or non-IT processes.
  • Ensure processes are carried out in a consistent, best practice manner that adhere to audit and compliance requirements.
  • Ensure that ITIL processes implemented are tailored to meet your site specific needs

Screenshots

Rejuvenated BMC puts UX at the heart of Remedy

The new BMC logo
The new BMC logo

BMC’s user conference ‘BMC Engage’ will be held in Florida, USA, from the 13th to 16th October.

BMC will be showcasing a number of new initiatives and innovations including a revamped user experience for Remedy users.

With the new look and feel to Remedy comes a new look and feel to the company image (See logo right).

Smart IT

The BMC Remedy with Smart IT release includes:

  • Contemporary look and feel focussed on user experience
  • A responsive experience for Remedy users across mobile, tablet and desktop (Responsive = the application presents an optimal view for users based on the device they are using without intervention).
  • Fast context aware searching (Think Google auto-complete for helpdesk)
  • Fast and intuitive data entry, minimizing the use of forms
  • Leveraging social mechanisms, with context and location aware knowledge management

BMC provided a fresh new approach to their ITSM end user experience via ‘My IT’ – Smart IT is a similar refresh for the back office part of Remedy.

I thought My IT was a bit too visionary for the average service desk.  It looks great on paper but I struggled to see how an average organization might make use of it given their maturity. Smart IT joins up a lot of the dots and brings new speed and value to everyday processes – At first glance it looks like something ITSM folks would actually want to and enjoy using. The interface looks remarkably clean, intuitive and modern – and they can start benefitting from it NOW, not as part of an IT vision of the future.

I remember reviewing Numara prior to the BMC acquisition many moons ago and being impressed by the persona based logins to the same system. This ethos seems to have carried through to Remedy with focus on personas over ITIL processes, user experience over frameworks. One pane of glass with different uses and approaches to the same data.

I was particularly impressed by the natural language search in Smart IT (Think Google auto-complete meets logging a service desk ticket). I’ve seen similar super fast natural language search in Tanium, it kicks traditional reporting and Boolean queries in to touch.

It makes me think that perhaps the ITSM Review should perform a bake-off on which ITSM tool vendor could record an incident the quickest whilst capturing the most accurate and relevant data?

“The IT team at Cornell is looking forward to leveraging the new ITSM experience that Remedy will offer with Smart IT,” said Benoit McNicoll, collaboration services manager at Cornell University. “We believe this modern, easy-to-use interface will help IT staff across the university work more productively. Smart IT is promising for the institution, and we feel it gives us a new venue for IT services, as well as an added desire to leverage more features of Remedy.”

First impressions are very good and it’s great to see BMC innovating and competing after privatization with fresh and relevant features. We look forward to examining Remedy in more detail.

Smart IT is available immediately at no additional cost for Remedy customers on version 7.6.04 SP2 or above.

Smart-IT
CLICK TO ENLARGE

Technology Review: DAMEWARE REMOTE SUPPORT V11.0.0

This is an independent review of Dameware Remote Support.

AT A GLANCE

DameWareLogo-FamilyA global leader in the market of service automation software and remote management, SolarWinds mission is to provide purpose-built products designed to make IT professional’s jobs easier.

This review takes a look at the core capabilities, the route to market, competitive strengths and weaknesses, product development roadmap and market reach of DameWare Remote Support, which was released in June 2014.

Available as an on-premise solution, DameWare Remote Support (DRS) is a set of systems administration tools that allow for advanced management and secure remote connections to computers outside of the firewall allowing IT professionals to access a number of operations via remote systems.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS

Strengths

Weaknesses

Yes Easy installation and deployment No  Remote Support Console looks dated
Yes Good value for money No  Limited support options
Yes Solid out-of-the box-functionality

PRIMARY MARKET FOCUS

Added to the company portfolio in late 2011 and encompassing a broad range of industries and sizes of organization, DameWare Remote Support has been sold to approximately 65,000 organisations since its inception.

50% of DameWare Remote Support customers are currently based in North America with 40% based in EMEA and a further 10% based in APAC and LATAM.

With several products that fit into the system management space, namely SolarWinds Web Helpdesk, Server and Application Manager, and Patch Manager, SolarWinds appears to be well on its way to providing a solution for every IT service.

ANALYSIS

Remote administration is an area that most of us are familiar with having at one time or another been on the receiving end of the “weird floating mouse” that makes your PC look like it has been inhabited by ghosts, when in actual fact a very clever person in some place far, far away (i.e. in a remote location) is investigating or fixing whatever issue your technology is experiencing.

With the increasing complexity of working environments, and with many users not only working from different locations but also on many different types of device (both inside and outside of the company firewall), IT organisations are challenged to find a remote support tool to help support the needs of an ever-evolving IT and business environment.

Enter DameWare Remote Support from SolarWinds.

As a self-hosted solution, DRS permits organisations to control data passed between computers during remote control sessions without the need for a third party gateway, giving organisations the security they need to support regardless of location.

In The ITSM Review’s opinion, DRS is a comprehensive tool that includes not just remote assistance but also: DameWare Server Admin Console, Exporter Tool and Dameware Mobile Gateway.

Mini Remote Control (MRC) is the remote assistance part of the solution that provides the ability to view and control users desktops, assisting the troubleshooting process.
troubleshooting-process
Advantages to using MRC rather than Remote Assistance or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) are:

  • Provides the ability to hold multiple active sessions allows multiple users to connect to the same remote session
  • Provides additional troubleshooting tools such as Ping, traceroute etc.
  • Provides the ability to save frequently used connections together with login credentials
  • Offers the ability to drop files on remote machines with only a few clicks
  • Allows you to send “wake-up packets” making it easier to manage machines that are power management-enabled
  • Contains built-in Chat features
  • Provides the ability to capture screenshots making it easier to document troubleshooting or record settings

Additional features available within DRS include:

  • DameWare Central Server and Administration Console, which allows organisations to manage DameWare users and permissions including control and activation of DRS and Mini Remote Control licences. Also allowing users to create and share a global host list and view current internet and mobile sessions
  • DameWare Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones and tablets, which allows organisations to remotely control and troubleshoot Windows computers
  • Ability to perform Windows administration tasks remotely without having to initiate a full remote control session.  These tasks include: restarting services and processes; viewing and clearing event logs, discs, share and peripheral management; registry editing and system performance monitoring
  • Management of multiple Active Directory (AD) domains including: user account unlocking and password resets; adding users to distribution and security groups; OU management; Group Policy editing and updating AD extended attributes
  • Remote support of computers on any operating system via Intel vPro AMT, allowing organisations to control them remotely with the AMT KVM Viewer – wake sleeping or hibernating computers, restart crashed computers and change BIOS settings of remote computers
  • Exporting of AD objects and Windows Configurations in bulk to CSV or XML formats

With advanced and well integrated software suites within almost every aspect of IT Management, we believe that SolarWinds are clearly going for some kind of world domination in this area and will soon have a solution to cover every imaginable scenario in your IT environment.

With experience of using at least five different remote support tools we believe we have a good grasp on what works and what doesn’t work for customers in this area.  Asking a customer for their IP address is always a bit hit-and-miss due to technical abilities (as well as the ability to listen and follow instruction) and asking them to type a long address into a browser followed by a hexadecimal key code should probably be in a “What not to do on a Service Desk” 101 guide.

What we particularly like about DRS is that even though it has every tool imaginable for you to use as part of the product, such as chat and remote command, it still seems remarkably straightforward to use, especially for those with a limited knowledge of these types of technologies who want to be able to do the minimum amount possible to enable a connection to their PC.

Furthermore, when you’re the one providing the support you likely want to be able do it with as fewer amount of steps as possible in a single service transaction, which is why we think tools within the DRS solution like Ping are particularly handy.  Allowing you to Ping a potential host before attempting a full connection and discovering it is not connected to the network ensures that you’re not wasting your time

DameWare Remote Support is full of little tools such as Ping, creating what is in effect a remote support swiss army knife.

ping-tool

One of our key issues with DRS is its User Interface (UI). Whilst we understand the concept behind the saying “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”, in our opinion the solution looks like something out of the 1990’s and positively pre-historic in comparison to other remote support tools in the market. Whilst we strongly believe that the solution provides all the functionality you could possibly need from a remote support tool, we wouldn’t be surprised if prospective customers were turned off by the look of the solution.

In stark contrast, the DameWare Server Admin Console looks modern and is much more in keeping with the look and feel of other SolarWinds tools. Our suggestion for improvement would be to overhaul the UI, but to ensure that this doesn’t impact the functionality or intuitiveness of the solution.

A further potential area for improvement is in support, which is an area that we found to be slightly puzzling. There appears to be no telephone support for DameWare Remote Support, just email, which is only manned Monday to Friday 9-5 CST. Help is however available from within the tool with alternative access to Thwack for crowd-sourced knowledge. That said, we do believe that the solution works very effectively and feel it would be unlikely that a customer would ever require a high level of support.

For companies that only require the above capabilities listed, it is worth noting that MRC is also available as a separate, standalone product.

mrc

KEY CAPABILITIES

The table below shows the key capabilities of SolarWinds DRS

General
  • Initiate MRC, RDP or Virtual Network Computing (VNC) sessions
  • Share screens
  • Initiate secure remote troubleshooting sessions
  • Transfer files during remote sessions
  • Manage group policy objects
  • Access functions such as command prompt, system performance etc. without the need to remotely connect
  • Bulk export of Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)
  • Chat with user
  • Remotely control Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux computers
  • Remote access for outside-of-firewall Windows machines
  • Mobile remote desktop from iOS and Android devices
  • Flexible deployment options
  • Remote Windows administration tools
  • Export AD objects and Windows configs
  • Support for Intel vPro – remote troubleshooting for out-of-band computers
  • Mobile app for troubleshooting anywhere
Active Directory
  • Unlock user accounts
  • Reset passwords
  • Update names and addresses
  • Create, amend and disable accounts
  • Setup Exchange mailboxes
  • Ability to manage multiple domains
  • Export AD information
Windows Server
  • Reboot after update
  • Troubleshoot slow running servers using Performance Monitor
  • Manage data file storage
  • Review eventlogs for suspicious activity

GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY

Founded in 1999 SolarWinds has grown year on year and provides over 50 IT management tools in its portfolio.

SolarWinds sells its products through an inside sales model and through channel partners all over the world.  Rather than involve consultants, potential DRS customers are encouraged to self evaluate for a period of 14 days and visit the user community, Thwack, to witness the sharing and support that takes place.

With a good solid grounding in the network, systems and application management arena, we believe that DRS is yet another very comprehensive offerring from SolarWinds. It is now estimated that that the average user deploys 2.5 of the main products from SolarWinds.

DameWare Remote Support is licensed per user/technician in a perpetual licensing model, which is scaled down as users are added.Prices start at $349 per licence and scale down to $270 per licence for larger deployments.

Business Partner Summary

Key Business Partners
  • RamgeSoft

Market Penetration

Number of customers on maintenance 21,000+
Typical Customer
  • Large businesses
  • Based in North America

IMPLEMENTATION

Typical Installation

Installation of DRS appears to be fast and straightforward, with stand-alone mode taking up to 10 minutes install, with time to set up for centralized mode dependant upon the number of users. DRS can be implemented/deployed using only internal staff. SolarWinds does not offer deployment services.

Full installation requirements (please note this is not the case for evaluation installations):

Software Requirements
Operating System
  • Microsoft Windows Vista, 7 or 8
  • Windows NT 4.0 w/Service Pack 1 or greater (including Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7, or Windows 8) and Windows Server 2012
Exchange
  • Exchange 2000/2003 support is provided in version 4.x and above within DRS AD Object Views (AD Users & Computers, AD Users container, etc.), and does not require Microsoft’s Exchange Admin Tools.
Active Directory
  • DameWare Remote Support Active Directory functionality is only supported on machines running Windows 2000 and above. However, even though it is not directly supported, many of the DRS AD features will still work on machines running Windows NT4 SP-6a, provided you also install Microsoft’s AD Client Extensions (DSClient.exe) for Windows NT4.
  • For more information about Microsoft’s AD Client Extensions, please refer to Microsoft’s website.
  • AD Client Extensions for Windows 95/98 and Windows NT 4.0:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/server/evaluation/news/bulletins/adextension.asp

CDM Control
  • “This version of DRS requires a newer version of COMCTL32.DLL (Version 4.71 or later) than what is installed on this machine (Version x.xx). A newer version of this DLL can be obtained from Microsoft and is shipped with NT SP4 and IE 4.x or higher.”

When this message is encountered, DRS will still function however, it is recommended that the COMCTL32.DLL file be revised to a later version. This file is not re-distributable by third party software developers but you can download and install it directly from Microsoft.

An installation wizard takes the user through installation step by step in a very straightforward manner. Full instructions for installation can be found here.

Time to Value

In our opinion, the short time required to install DRS together with its ease of use, scalability and minimal manpower costs for deployment suggests a rapid Return On Investment (ROI).

Resources Required

DRS requires minimal resources due to install with upgrades requiring little to no action.

Scalability

DRS is infinitely scalable with licences sold per analyst with an unlimited number of supported PC’s.

 

scalability

PRODUCT ROADMAP

Based on the information provided, the next major functional enhancement from SolarWinds will be unattended remote access to outside-of-firewall computers.  No date has yet been provided for the release of this enhancement.

PRODUCT PORTFOLIO

Network Management

  • Network Performance Monitor
  • Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack
  • NetFlow Traffic Analyzer
  • Network Configuration Manager
  • IP Address Manager
  • User Device Tracker
  • VoIP & Network Quality Manager
  • Engineer’s Toolset
  • Network Topology Manager
  • Kiwi CatTools

System Management

  • Server & Application Monitor
  • Virtualization Manager
  • Storage Manager
  • Web Performance Monitor
  • Web Help Desk
  • Patch Manager
  • DameWare Remote Support
  • DameWare Mini Remote Control
  • Kiwi Syslog Server
  • Kiwi Log Viewer
  • Mobile Admin

Security, Information and Event Management

  • Log & Event Manager
  • Firewall Security Manager
  • Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server

Database Management

  • Database Performance Analyzer for SQL Server
  • Database Performance Analyzer for Oracle
  • Database Performance Analyzer for DB2
  • Database Performance Analyzer for Sybase

COVERAGE

Head Office Austin, Texas
Regional Offices Czech Republic, Ireland, Singapore, Utah, Australia, Philippines, Colorado,Canada
Partner Representation RamgeSoft – Germany

FURTHER RESOURCES

Company Information

Named as Forbes Best Small Company in America in 2012, SolarWinds provides a wealth of network and system management tools including over 30 free offerings.

SolarWinds products are grouped into the following categories:

  • Network Management
  • System Management
  • Security, Information and Event Management
  • Database Management

The company has headquarters in Austin, Texas and operates out of a growing number of worldwide regional offices (eight at the time of writing).

SolarWinds community, Thwack, has over 125,000 users worldwide who collaborate and share knowledge specific to SolarWinds products.  As a result with little searching you can find a Knowledge Base article or forum post with the answer to almost any question you may have.

CONTACT DETAILS

SolarWinds Contact Details

Head Office Austin, Texas
Regional Offices
  • Brno, Czech Republic
  • Cork, Ireland
  • Singapore
  • Lehi, Utah
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Manilla, Philippines
  • Boulder, Colorado,
  • Ottawa, Canada

SUMMARY

In our opinion, DRS is a good fit for all size IT organisations across any industry.

Strengths

Weaknesses

Yes Easy installation and deployment No  Remote Support Console looks dated
Yes Good value for money No  Limited support options
Yes Solid out-of-the box functionality

Disclaimer, Scope and Limitations

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created.  Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed.  Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline, and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study.  The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review, that is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge, without registration.

For further information, please read our Disclosure page.

Enterprise Release Management Tools Group Test

The ITSM Review will be performing a deep dive review of Enterprise Release Management tools.

This article provides an introduction to Enterprise Release Management (ERM) and a high level summary of typical functionality.

Notes

  • This group test will be conducted by Rebecca Beach, our ITSM Analyst, and Rob Spencer, Change and Release specialist and vice-chair of the UK itSMF Transition SIG.
  • We’ve also included a few examples of providers who offer ERM capabilities – please let me know of any other suggestions.
  • If any suppliers wish to participate in our Group Test please contact us before 30th September 2014.
  • Learn more about our Group Tests.
  • Read our back catalogue of completed Group Tests.

Thanks, Martin


Introduction to Enterprise Release Management

By Rob Spencer

How do organisations plan tens or hundreds of releases a year across project delivery, vendor patching, infrastructure changes and more? How do they manage competition for access to test environments, ensure they spot colliding production releases in good time and avoid overbooking their test teams?

How do they articulate this enterprise-wide release roadmap to senior stakeholders, customers and IT staff?

Traditional answers to these questions usually take the form of project plans and spreadsheets. They rely on regular meetings between project office, operations & technical staff to keep them in sync, and are rarely, if ever, accurate in real time.

Today, a new breed of release management planning tools is emerging. Enterprise Release Management tools are agnostic of functional requirements or constituent change requests, and they don’t manage the actual deployment of code. They simply allow the entire IT organisation to track and manage the entire portfolio of releases across all environments. They have the scope breadth of a Change Schedule, but go into more detail.

At their simplest, they are a single source of the truth for the multitude of spreadsheets they replace, but most can pivot this data to provide people with the information they care about in customised and intuitive views – from CIO roadmaps to a test manager’s forward work plan.

Ultimately, they give Service Operations a reliable, realtime view of all upcoming releases with at-a-glance assurance that the right governance has been completed for each. And since they span both development and operations, many are starting to be called DevOps Release tools.

ERM

What does an Enterprise Release Management tool do?

  • Plans (and scopes) a release – Allows the construction of an end to end release plan following a user-customisable structure which could map to eg. an organisations’ project governance gateways. Should be able to record both governance activities/milestones as well as physical activities in multiple environments (deployments, test runs etc). Ideally should be templatable and re-usable.
  • Plans ALL releases – Takes the individual releases and plots them against a common timeline to spot resource over/under utilisation, go-live collisions and tells operations when to brace for action.
  • Manages environment & resource usage – Pivots the data from all releases and show an environment – or resource -centric view of the same data. Helps answer questions such as “what’s happening in our Pre-Prod environment next week?” or “can I deliver everything I promised?”
  • Presents data in various views depending on audience – The steering committee has different needs to those of a test manager, and the project needs to be able to see anything relevant with a few clicks. Does the tool allow varying levels of detail to be presented over user-defined timescales in a clean and coherent way no matter the format?
  • And not forgetting… – Role based access to stop people from seeing the wrong things (or changing them), the ability to dynamically import and update change requests from other tools (data exchange mechanisms such as XML and RESTful APIs are becoming the norm in service tools).

Methodology

To test these, we’re constructing an entire fictitious company with a busy year of releases including new system deliveries, infrastructure refreshes, monthly & quarterly patching to cloud and on-premise services. We’re covering both agile and waterfall development & delivery methodologies, and even introducing some DevOps practice. We’re sharing this case study with the participating vendors, and we’re also going to make our own spreadsheet versions of the plans (which we won’t share with the vendors in advance). Our case study also includes some fairly thorny problems which a typical organisation could encounter eg. scheduling conflicts, people not following process and people whose idea of planning is far removed from the reality of their customers’ needs.


Here are some tools we are aware of in this area.

If anyone knows of any others please leave a comment below or drop us a line. I will update the list as we find new suggestions. Thanks, Martin